Part six of the series details some of the true superstars of the Broncos roster, the linebackers. From cover guys to edge rushing terrors, the linebacking corps has as much athleticism and playmaking ability of any group on the roster. That should be an easy assumption to make, considering that the (soon to be) highest paid player on the roster and bonafide “face of the franchise” is in this position group.
We’ll see who fits and who moves on going forward.
Player: Von Miller
Explanation: Do I really need to? Without question, he’s the most talented player on the Broncos roster and he will soon be paid like it. You take Von Miller off of the team and the Broncos don’t have a third world championship. Nobody could or should argue against that. Let’s just enjoy a few of his highlight plays below and move on because we know Von Miller’s going NOWHERE.
Player: Brandon Marshall
Explanation: The fourth year linebacker’s story fits in with many other memorable Bronco players that contributed to their championship seasons. A former mid-late round pick by another organization, Marshall was cast aside after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars(for the third time). He eventually found his way to the Mile High city and made an immediate impact. As a practice
squad signing late in the 2013 season, Marshall went from scout team stud to an absolute dynamo in the Broncos defense the following year.
In his two years as a starter with the Broncos, Marshall has racked up 215 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 13 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. Clearly, Marshall is no slouch.
The most impressive thing about Marshall’s play this past season is that he played the season with an injured foot(he had two screws placed in his foot due to this injury).
The bottom line is, despite every possible setback that was thrown against Marshall being hurled his way, he’s been able to rebound and turn into an impact player in the league. In a year where so many key players for the Broncos are about to hit the market, being able to carefully choose the players that can keep the core of the team together is imperative.
Marshall and Danny Trevathan are both primed for a lucrative 2nd contract. The Broncos know they can’t pay both, so it merely comes down to who can be a more consistent player moving forward. Aside from the fact that Marshall is a restricted free agent(meaning that unless a team matches the tender that the Broncos put on him, he will return next year), he’s also proven to be the more consistent and dynamic playmaker of the two linebackers.
With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see why Marshall can and should be a brick for this team moving forward.
Player: Shane Ray
Explanation: Ray’s reasoning for being a brick may be the most obvious. He was the Broncos 1st round selection in last year’s draft and at the very minimum, he has three(potentially four with the fifth year option) to cement his status on the team for the long haul. Coming out of Missouri, Ray
was widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in the draft and a bonafide top 10 pick. In an odd twist of fate, it would be an off-field incident that would cause Ray to slip in the draft and into the hands of the eventual world champions.
Just days before the draft, Ray was arrested for possession of Marijuana in Missouri. In many cases, this would lead to an eventual slide in draft stock and an incident in which many teams would question his character.
Fortunately for Ray, there was a team that still believed in his abilities and had the right situation in which Ray could come in, develop and eventually thrive for their team.
Despite being behind Miller/Ware and at times, Shaq Barrett, in the line up, Ray slowly but surely found a role for himself in the defensive rotation. It was clear that he become more comfortable with his role over the season, as he was seen making more plays and being a consistent pressure as the season went on.
Regardless of what happens to DeMarcus Ware, Ray will find his role in the defense grow over time and hopefully, he’ll be the ideal partner to tandem with Miller to terrorizes the edges for many years to come.
Player: Shaquil Barrett
Explanation: The Broncos scouting department makes it look so easy. Yet another undrafted
prospect turned impact player, Shaquil “Shaq” Barrett went from practice squad hopeful to borderline starter in the historic Broncos defense. Although is 2015 stats may not be Pro Bowl caliber (50 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 pass deflections and 4 forced fumbles), Barrett was fantastic in a reserve role coming off of the bench to relieve Miller and Ware.
Like Ray, I see Barrett only having an expanded role on the defense moving forward and with at least two more years under contract, I don’t see Barrett going anywhere.